How To: 

How Do I Find a Good Therapist?

While there are a lot of therapists offering their services, finding someone you like takes dedicated effort, especially if you have never seen a therapist before.

Here are some of the more important issues you should consider:

  • Is the therapist licensed? Each state is responsible for making sure therapists are competent to provide their services. Only those with proper training receive a license.

  • If you have health insurance, will it cover the therapy from this provider?

  • Are there limits to the number of sessions covered by your insurance?


While it is not too difficult to find the name of a therapist, it may take more time to find a therapist that you consider to be “good.”

Here are some helpful hints:

  • Call the therapist on the phone and find out if the therapist is familiar with evidence-based treatment for your concerns and if your therapist uses evidence-based treatment in their practice. These are treatments that have been tested scientifically and shown to be effective. Evidence-based treatment (e.g. for depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bedwetting for children, obsessive compulsive behavior) is based on published research of controlled studies meeting acceptable criteria.

  • Ask whether the therapist has had experience in dealing with your concerns. Some therapists specialize in working with children or families, adults or older adults. Some may have lots of experience with the problems that concern you. Find out, if possible, how much experience they have had.

  • Find out in advance what the fees will cost you, the charge for missed sessions and, if possible, how long therapy might take.

  • Find out where the therapist is located, what hours are available for your treatment, and if the therapist will see you in an emergency. Is the therapist located in a clinic, community mental health center, medical school, independent practice or other setting?

  • Find out what kind of therapy your potential therapist is likely to provide (for example, long term versus short term, individual or group therapy, what theoretical orientation) and see if that fits your expectations.

  • Remember that choosing a therapist is a very personal matter. There is no one therapist that is good for everyone. It is important that you feel a sense of trust and that this therapist can help you.

After you have gathered all of this information (or as much as you have been able to obtain), give yourself a little time to think about all this. You may want to set up initial appointments with one or two potential therapists and see how comfortable you are with them. Take the time to find the right therapist for you.

Also Consider

Discuss Budget

Therapy can be expensive. If you have insurance, your plan may cover mental and behavioral health. That said, most therapists operate out of network due to paperwork and low reimbursements. Most therapists do offer free intake sessions, as well as sliding scale rates, so it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If you live near a school that specializes in social work, Woodland recommends therapist interns who are still earning their credentials. Interns are able to provide access to services at a lower cost, and what they may lack in clinical experience, they often make up for in a genuine desire to connect with their communities.


Treatment Type

Therapy has come a long way since Rorschach tests.  There are now a number of approaches to talk therapy, some of them more widely practiced than others. Most therapists will utilize multiple modalities throughout their practice, depending on what you might need. Some of these include:

  • Psychodynamic therapy – This is the traditional, Freudian talk therapy most are familiar with, where unconscious thoughts and feelings are addressed.

  • Client-centered therapy – Here, the patient takes control of the conversation, while the therapist takes a more hands-off, empathetic role.

  • Existential therapy – What if you’ve experienced trauma and can’t shake the pervasive feeling that nothing matters? There’s a shrink for that. Existential therapy is rooted in the search for meaning and authenticity.

  • Gestalt therapy – Gestalt focuses on the here and the now, using environment as a conduit for new forms of meaning. Expect lots of role-play exercises, such as the infamous empty chair technique.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy – CBT seeks to change negative thought patterns, which, in turn, changes negative emotions and behaviors. If you enjoy homework and worksheets, then this approach might be for you.


More importantly, however, is the relationship you have with your therapist. “A lot of research has found that the modality is not the most important thing,” Woodland says. “If you have a strong therapeutic alliance, then it means you’re attuned to what your client needs—no matter what.”

Vulnerability 

For the longest time, I struggled to feel a genuine connection with my therapists. It wasn’t until I started seeking therapists who fit exactly what I was looking for—someone who actually made me feel validated and seen—did I really start to let my guard down throughout my sessions.

Lucy Nguyen, a marriage and family therapist intern in Los Angeles, says that it’s essential to “find somebody who feels curious about you, rather than somebody who’s analyzing you.”

“If the relationship feels genuine, then that gives you space to be authentic yourself,” Nguyen says. “That’s the basis of healing.”